January 2017 Expenses

There are things I love about each season. January was COLD. Cold, cold, cold. Like -20 below cold at times. Which most people hate, truth be told. They didn’t move to Montana to live like icicles. But I secretly love it. Of course, I would never tell people that. Complaining about the weather is a common bonding experience. But I do love it. Mostly because we love being outdoors. We love going hiking, to the lake, camping, and just playing at the park. Every half decent day, we feel this strong moral obligation to get outside. Like we are wasting this amazing gift if we don’t. Even if it’s just to hang out in our backyard, drink tea and coffee under our apple trees and watch the kids play on the trampoline. Every season brings it’s own “you can’t waste this kind of day!” yearnings. Long hikes in the spring. Digging in the garden. Or hot summer days that make you feel horrible if you aren’t at the lake throwing rocks. Ah, but when it’s -20 below. No obligation. No strong moral dilemma. I can look at the freezing blizzard happening outside and very happily toss on my cardigan and fuzzy slippers and get to work.

Cost per month for large family early retirement

So January was awesome! Not counting giving, our expenses for the month were $1771. That includes the $150 to Mr. Mt and my auto deposit to our separate “fun money” accounts. Mine is overflowing at this point, with over $2,000 just waiting for me. This month I actually spent a little of it. After 12 months of not buying clothes, I picked up 4 tee shirts, 2 tank tops, 2 leggings and of course, a cardigan. Because I have a one-in-one-out rule, the same number of items had to leave my closet.

one in one out rule for minimalist clothing

Sometimes people worry about what will happen after they gain more financial independence. Will they be bored? Will their life start to lack meaning? Or become monotonous? Or what would happen if they left the 9-5 before they 100% sure had enough money to never work again? Would that work be such a bummer and cramp their ER lifestyle? But we have experienced the complete opposite. We have found, with more freedom and flexibility, more cool opportunities open up.

Here is a sample of what January looked like:

I committed each Friday to making progress on our house projects. Mainly the bathroom remodel. And it has paid off. Now there are just a few finishing touches to handle. But I set all the accent tile for the floor and tiled the shower, which was terrifying! I had never worked with tile, thin set or grout before. In this first picture, I am so blasting excited that it is even working! And yes, I have a renovation/painting cardigan. =)

you tube reno bath remodel

renovation cardigans

set tile yourself save money

House Maintenance: $67.52

I took on more freelance writing work, writing blog posts for small businesses. It’s been fun to help craft other’s message and brand. Plus, I feel like I am taking this huge weight off their shoulders by handling something so daunting for them. I finally was able to put together offers for the MMA community for mentoring and consults. It was fun to chat with a few people and see those light bulb moments! Chatting with people about their money, goals, dreams and ideal lifestyle might be the funnest way to spend my “work” time ever! I also gave a speech for MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) about how to create rest.

In this picture we were heading back from the presentation. It’s only -13 below this day, so I could wear leggings with a dress. =)

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Mr. Mt took a ski day. He had used his fun money to buy new skis that were clearanced last summer. He was thrilled to get to test those out. Since leaving his 9-5, he has been able to work out 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week. One of his big motivations for pushing so hard in the gym is skiing. He just loves it! Now he can go on a Tuesday morning, and it works out great for everyone. The ski hill is empty, plus it doesn’t eat into our weekend family time. We have a great ski hill here in the Flathead Valley. Plus they offer 50% off ski tickets for veterans. So even with buying a little food, and drink his total cost for the day came to $51.50.

We had one weekend with decent weather at the end of the month, so we did a little family hike. I’ve never known a baby to love being outside so much. So he was smiling the entire time!

winter hiking with baby

family hikes in the winter

affordable winter activities in Montana

I did two get together’s with some girl friends. One was a girls trip to some local hot springs. We bought a few punch cards last year when they went on sale, so I covered the cost for everyone. Honestly, it gets hard in this season of life to make time (kid free) to connect with friends. But since we left the 9-5, it’s something I make time for every month. There are so many free or low cost ways to get out of the house and connect for a few hours with friends.

Vacation: $51.50

Mr. Montana decided to take a few more classes at the local community college. There are so many things he is interested in, and it’s been great for him to dabble in the trades. This semester he is taking metal lathing and welding. When he started his last job, they explicitly said he could not take any classes while working there. The work and hours were very demanding and couldn’t accommodate even one class. The Post 9-11 GI bill he earned during his military service will expire in a few years. So it’s been great that he can use a bit of it. Not only does it pay 100% of his class cost, but provides a housing stipend. This semester it will add an extra $950 a month in our pocket. Last semester it was $1200 a month. He spends 2 days a week doing that between class time and school work.

Blogging takes about 20 hours a week for me. In January, I was able to write about 20,000 words. Writing words for you all, responding to comments and emails is an amazing part of my week. Even though I am an introvert, I really, really love people. Working mainly from home has been really ideal for me. I get to save all my relational energy for the people I most want to connect with, talk to, or spend time with. I worked in commission sales for a long time, and after working with random people all day, surrounded by coworkers, my introverted self was exhausted.

work from home as a freelance writer

I also took a trip, with just Mr. Mt and the baby, to Missoula. I met with a potential professional mentor. A blogger, book writer and podcaster I really admire. If you have ever drove the road from the Flathead valley, along Flathead lake, to Missoula, you’ll know it’s one of the prettiest you’ll ever see. I love road trips. The quiet, the time to talk, the time to stare out at this amazing scenery and just brainstorm and dream. My best ideas happen on long car rides. We were able to make the trip between the time we dropped the kids off at school and when we pick them up. So we didn’t have to pay any extra for childcare. Between this trip, our normal driving and the hot springs trip, our gas for our van was a bit higher than our normal post work. But still lower than when we both worked.

Car Gas: $130

In February, we have been talking more about financial independence. Creating more choice and freedom. Separating great work from the 9-5. January was bursting with things we love! Classes, writing, helping people, connecting with friends, road trips, projects, skiing, creating things, a speaking engagement and we even snuck in that winter hike. Some things might count as work. A few we were paid for. But the number 1 reason it all was there, was because we love it. It’s meaningful to us. Enjoyable. Important. Every month looks a little different. It looks however we want it to look.

Other expenses:

Food: $800

Our food bill also includes all our other household products, like garbage bags, cleaning supplies, laundry detergents, toilet paper or paper towels. We buy all this at Costco, so if we run out of a few items in one month it can kind of distort the cost. That was one factor in the cost being a bit higher than normal. The other was we stock up on protein bars twice a year when the go on sale. We almost never eat fast food as a convenience, and a protein bar is our go to if we find ourselves hungry while out running errands. When they go on sale, we can get them for .63 cents a piece (30 grams of protein). For us, it’s an easier, and more satisfying option (plus cheaper!). We spent about $100 on those, which should last us about 6-12 months.

Utilities: $151

Our natural gas bill (which heats our home) is averaged out during the year, so our utilities don’t spike in the winter.

Kids: $54

We go through about a box of diapers ($23 on Amazon with subscribe and save) and a box of wipes ($20) each month. Plus we spent $4 for some new tooth brushes for the kids at the dollar store and $7 on a trip to McDonald’s to let the kids run around and play (a favorite -20° activity.)

Dog: $30

We bought Cheesy Taco a bag of food and a clearance Christmas sweater. He is small (12 lbs) and eats WAY too many pieces of food that fall on the floor from all 5 kids (sometimes Honey Badger does this intentionally!) so that bag lasts him about 3-5 months. Our total dog cost might be $10 a month (including treats), but considering how clean he keeps my floors, he should be earning an allowance!

Car Maintenance: $28

We needed new windshield wipers. Apparently they were old and brittle and just snapped in the crazy cold. Mr Mt assured me that $14 a wiper was the mid price option. Seems like a lot for a little piece of rubber, but what do I know?

Misc: $20

We probably should have broken up this receipt into the proper categories, but apparently I was feeling lazy this day. This was trip to a craft store where we stocked up on clearance hand soap in “Christmas” scents. Plus we bought some clearance craft paper for the kids. After we went all minimalism on their toys, they spend a lot more time coloring, folding origami and making paper airplanes. We don’t do a lot of craft supplies (mostly because that can get crazy messy as well) but we keep lots of paper, crayons, markers and scissors.

For the first few years we were married and paying off debt, I avidly tracked our expenses. It’s been great to start again this last year and a half.

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For conversation:

How was your January? Any negative digits?

Ever set tile before? How did I do?

What might you fill a month with if you didn’t have a 9-5?

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40 thoughts on “January 2017 Expenses

  1. Your budget is awesome!! Very inspiring. I need to work on getting some of my expenses down. Since we’ve moved I’ve spent WAY too much money on DIY stuff. I love the bathroom, too. Looks great!

    • This is the last room in our house to finish after almost 5 years here. We gutted the whole thing when we bought it, but didn’t really need a second bath. I’m not sure we really “need” it now. But it was already framed in and plumbed. With 7 of us, I know it will be handy. Especially for my love of baths. =) It has a bit of a Montana rustic feel, with the slate and natural pebble stones. =)

  2. Hooray for skiing! I used to go skiing a lot when I lived in Michigan and Alaska. I moved to Colorado a few years ago and you’d think they’d have great skiing here, but I live outside of the mountains and it’s basically a desert. No skiing unless you drive for hours. Hopefully I’ll get back to an area where I can ski again someday!

    • That was one of Mr. Mt requirements when he left the military: there must be good skiing. =) The ski hill here is great. Plus we have another small one. You can always check out the Flathead valley if you are location hunting. =) It’s hard to beat. (Well unless you want high paying jobs, or extremely affordable housing, those are tough to come by!) 😉

    • The “no mortgage” thing always helps. =) Plus none of our big bills were due this month, like property tax. But a lot of our low spending I think is correlated to how much we enjoy our life. We really don’t want new stuff (already feel like we have too much!) and the month was filled with so many great experiences, that I’m not sure we could have fit more in even if we wanted to spend more.

      • Mortgaga free is a budget boost indeed… we are counting the years to reach that point.
        Our monhlty budget actually takes into account big bills on a pro rarat basis. Example: the housing tax is paid once per year. each mont, we put aside 1/12 for the time that the bill arrives. That makes our monthly budget quite stable.
        we are also not very much i to buying new stuff, we have adopted quite a frugal mindset over the years.

        • Yeah, these reports are just what we actually spent that month, not actually our budgeted amounts. The only real exception would be our “fun money” account, but that is because is gets transferred into our personal accounts from our family checking. So it’s counted as spent then so we don’t have to track those expenses in our software. =)

  3. Agreed with Amber — great storytelling with your expenses! Great observation about the “amazing gifts” of days that you just can’t waste indoors. I never felt that urgency growing up in California; it would always be 75 and sunny again the next day. Nicely done on the tile work! I would be intimidated to try that!

    • I was super intimidated by the tile! I totally just did it scared. And the weather is a crazy thing. We had sunny 40 degree days this weekend, which was amazing. So we were outside playing the whole time: hiking, at the park, in the yard. And it almost feels like people hold you accountable to it. Every where we went all we heard was: “Are you getting outside to enjoy this weather??!!” Yes, yes we are. Not getting anything else done, but we are enjoying it. =)

  4. Wow, you’ve had a busy January. I guess I can’t complain about being busy anymore. You’re living life to the fullest on the cheap and I aspire to the same. Really great.
    I’m sick of winter, though…

    • It starting to feel like everything we cut out, 2 more amazing things pop up. I’m seriously tempted to hire a house keeper, just so we can say “yes” even more often. It’s crazy how two technically unemployed people have so much going on all the time. =)

  5. Great pictures – including an adorable baby on a hike 🙂

    It sounds like you guys had a great January. We almost took the kids to McDonald’s the other day, so they could climb around in those tubes and stuff. But they always seem to get sick when we go there – it doesn’t matter how many times we wash our hands. January was pretty rough on illness in our house, so we couldn’t bring ourselves to voluntarily contract any more germs.

    • Oh, I feel you! We has a crazy hard week in December and last week actually. It was like the plague hit our house and wouldn’t leave. One by one we dropped off. The fog just started to leave by Saturday. I feel like my kids pick up every germ in our county. I’m so glad we don’t have 9-5 jobs anymore, or I would miss 2 solid weeks each year just for sick days.

    • Hey! Thanks so much! I spent years fighting back the urge to over-share our personal finances and thoughts on the topic. So blogging has been awesome for that! Plus it’s great to connect with others who think it’s also fun and interesting. Thanks for taking the time to comment (the first time is always the hardest!)

  6. Sounds like an amazing month. I, like you, am an introvert and the one thing I miss about freelancing was working from home where it was oh so quiet! A lot of people get lonely, but I never did! And the cold? Fuggetaboutit! 🙂 lol! Glad you enjoy it though!

    • I find that working from home gives me more relational energy for other things. I love to jump on a Skype call with other bloggers, readers, or for money consults because I haven’t drained that energy reserve. Or go hang out with my girl friends because I didn’t have to spend 45+ hours with coworkers all week. =) Although come feb/march a week at the beach starts to sound nice. =)

  7. Amazing expenses for January! And thanks for sharing! Love hearing about your month. We had a great month too, considering we were trying not to spend beyond normal bills.

    I have set tile and, I have to admit, I don’t really enjoy it. The last job we did was a 200 sq foot room and we did it all in one day. Between my knees, my back and the mud all over in my hair, I swore I’d never tile again. But, I probably will! 🙂 Looks to me like you did a pro job! I love the tile in the bathroom. Hope you’re getting closer to being done.

    • Oh it was messy. The tiling spanned DAYS. I made a video to post, but later realized I looked like a hobo. Apparently I don’t think to wear make up or even brush my hair for tiling. =)

  8. Great month–congrats on your successful freelance writing, and tile project! And that sounds like a great protein bar deal that you stocked up on.

    I don’t love cold weather, but I do like being alleviated from the moral obligation to make the most of gorgeous weather. I totally get it!

  9. I was wondering how your utility bill was only $151 given the extremely cold temps… I do appreciate the yearly averaging for utilities.

    We’ve done numerous tile projects in the past. Kitchens and bathrooms. For the bathroom project we wanted to do a tile floor in the shower, but it seemed a bit too complicate for our skills. So we bought a floor pan for the base of the shower.

    • I like the averaging as well. Water is really consistent at about $40-50 a month, a little more in the summer when we water the garden and grass. Electric runs about $60, we don’t need more than a few week of AC in the summer, if at all, so it’s rather stable.

      I’m sure we will do more tile projects. For the cost of the tile, thin set and grout, it adds a ton of value. Next I want to add tile backsplashes in our rental kitchens. We have it in our kitchen and it adds a lot of function and wow for a couple hundred bucks.

  10. My wife and I laid tile when we put up the backsplash in our kitchen. I should actually rephrase that and say my wife has laid tile while I measured and had the pieces cut. It really helped the project go quicker plus she would let me know which pieces fit well together 🙂

  11. Bathroom looks amazing! Jon just started working on ours, but I’m guessing it will take a while.

    We’ve been lucky with weather most of the winter…although weekends have been kinda rainy it’s been pretty mild most of the time. Last weekend we had sunny weather in the 80s, which is crazy even for NC.

    • We lived in Virginia for 4 years and fall/spring were the great weather times, winter sometimes ok, and summer unbearable. Summer here is the best! Hot during the day, with low humidity, and cool at night. We had 40 degree weather this weekend, which felt amazing after how cold it had been. We spent hours exploring outdoors. I will head outdoors when it’s colder, but 35-40 is when I really want to get outside. =)

  12. I love this line item: “ducks, dog.” That’s a good life! We don’t get 20 below in NYC but I would secretly love it as well. I love not having that pressure sometimes to do anything but hide inside in our slippers. There is a time and place for everything and as much as we love the outdoors and museums and visiting with friends, every family needs time where all of those things are just out of the question. I had a similar revelation when I was really sick this past week. I’m always doing things when I’m at home, but I was sick enough that I literally could do nothing. Sit on the couch, watch a movie, nap. It was such a relief not to thinking of what I needed to be doing.

    • I see the appeal of 75 degree weather year round, but I love the seasons. Every season offers new options that are for a “limited time only.” And for me winter is rest. And just the chance to get caught up on our indoor projects and creative projects.

  13. That Christmas sweater – LOVE IT! Your bathroom remodel looks great. I have to admit I’m really scared to do it myself and when my husband and I were prepping our house for sale last year, we ended up paying someone. We have a dream to update our future home though ourselves. Good work!

  14. Some of your pictures are a little topsy-turvy!

    What a grand month. This sort of recap is one reason I’d really like to be mortgage-free. It’s our one major debt, though it’s not our only large expense, it IS the biggest recurring one.

    JuggerBaby was a winter baby too, and LOVED being out in the cold. Ze would forever be taking off zir socks and wiggling zir toes in the wind. We horrified strangers when we were out walking and our baby was barefoot 🙂

    • Darn pictures! I could get them right on one device, but not all. So on my laptop, they are perfect, and on my tablet some are sideways. I think it’s because I took the pictures with my phone. :/

      And I seriously love not having a mortgage. I could have more money in stocks and pull it out to pay our monthly mortgage, but that wouldn’t feel the same. When our expenses are this low, it feels like we have a 1000 options.

  15. Your budget is amazing! It is so wonderful how every expense was mindful and that your discipline is allowing you to be more present and happy in your life. Congratulations! This shows the power of financial health and independence 🙂

    • I like logging our expenses because it makes me extra mindful. And it provides a lot of feedback at the end of the month. How much did we enjoy the month and what did we have to spend to do that? Sometimes the expenses don’t live up to expectations, and it’s great to have a moment to reflect on that so we don’t make that mistake twice. And sometimes they are an amazing value, and we try to make sure we repeat those often. =)

  16. Looks like you had a great month. I never understand it when people say they would be bored if they didn’t have to work. I think they’re just rationalizing their decision not to save more to retire early. I can think of a ton of things I would do and not one of them involves sitting on my butt watching endless hours of TV! Taking classes at a community college is a great idea. I’ve found I’m the happiest when I’m learning something new or working to achieve something. Great advice!

    • You might be right about people not wanting to save. But, honestly, I think most people would be bored. Because their life is almost 100% their job. They don’t spend any time or energy on hobbies, relationships or growth. They work, they eat, they watch tv, go to bed, repeat. It takes time and energy to build interests. I think even people planning on retiring early, or working less, would be very wise to spend the 5 years before experimenting and testing out what they think they want this extra time to look like.

  17. Great post thanks for sharing! I wonder how your health insurance is so low? would you please share some insights? thanks!
    ps – just found your blog from retirebyforty 🙂

    • We have health coverage as part of Mr. Mt’s military retirement. We have to pay for copays and medication as it comes up, but no monthly premium. Although Root of Good, buys through the ACA and pays $16 a month, which seems crazy low. I have no idea how much it would be for us to buy privately. We do pay for life insurance and dental for me. The dental is $60 a month for poor coverage, so I’m considering dropping it. :/ Thanks for being a new reader, Abby! =)